Evangelization in Brussels ” “

" "The future of Christianity " "in the big cities" "" "

“Each age is characterised by obstacles that make the task of evangelization difficult, but each age also constitutes fertile ground for the Word of God. Today it is in the cities that the most challenging questions are encountered, and it is there that the search for the right balance between the person and the community is being sought”. According to the archbishop of Malines-Bruxelles, Cardinal Godfried Danneels , it is in the big cities, in particular, that “the future of Christianity is at stake”. It is there that “man’s wounds” are deepest: “loneliness, anomie, insecurity, alienation”, and “an unregulated freedom that does not bring happiness”. Hence “the urgent need to evangelise the big cities”. This is a task that requires “familiarity with the vocabulary, grammar and syntax of city culture”. It’s a mission that must be mediated by the parish network. We asked Cardinal Danneels to describe for us the face of the parishes of Brussels today, their challenges, difficulties and projects. An authentic and humble presence. “People frequently wonder – observes the archbishop – what new language the parishes should use for meeting people. But I don’t think it’s just a question of language. For contemporary man it is the Christian message, in itself, that poses the problem”. In the cardinal’s view, “we would need, perhaps, to change the way we present it: in other words, not present the message as a foregone conclusion, but as something to be discovered”. Hence the importance of “a new and ‘other’ presence within society: a presence, at the same time, that is both humble and authentic”. The Church, “sign of the love of God”, “does not pretend to be something different”, nor should she “adapt the Gospel to the expressions of our culture, because anyone who is conducting a spiritual search does not seek “what this culture already offers him”. So, stresses Danneels, “we need to combine a clear and unambiguous proposal, an authenticity shorn of compromises” with “deep humility, and an open door to anyone who is searching for something or who comes just to see”. Pastoral units. “Looking at the 109 parishes of Brussels – says the archbishop – I don’t note any particularly new or significant experiences. Many of them bear witness to real vitality; for others, it’s especially a struggle for survival”. In all of them, however, “pastoral activity remains difficult”. Two positive developments, in Danneels’ view, should be emphasized: the formation of pastoral units and the presence of Christians of foreign origin. As for the first, what’s involved here, he explains, if “not fusing together several parishes”, but getting “them to collaborate together by forming pastoral units”, because in the majority of cases “the parish, alone, is no longer able to ‘give’ everything that the Church has to offer”. Catechumenate, catechesis, doctrinal and liturgical formation, diaconal mission: these are the fields in which the archbishop asks for closer collaboration between the parishes of Brussels. “In future – he says – one of the churches of the pastoral unit will become the mother-parish church; there the faithful will congregate for the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. It’s a solution we are considering for the future, while awaiting the problem of the shortage of priests to be solved, a shortage that is not felt for the time being” (there are 222 priests active in the diocese). Christians of other cultures. A “real opportunity and a grace for the Church of our cities” is the presence of “of numerous Christians of foreign nationality, many of them convinced in their faith and regular churchgoers”, says Cardinal Danneels. “Dialogue and exchange in mutual respect between us Westerners and Christians coming from other cultures and with a view of the Church different from ours, is of strategic importance for the very future of the Church: not to fill our churches with devotees, but to enable us to rediscover our vocation and our mission”.

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